It is not so often, these days, that one hears or reads of sadomasochism in sexual relations, which is perhaps just as well! For the infliction of pain on another, even when the other is a willing accomplice to its infliction, isn't really the most honourable of pursuits and scarcely tallies with a developing transcendental age or, at any rate, with an age becoming increasingly transcendent in certain contexts, not the least of which being sex. Sadism, one feels, is somehow too cruel and barbaric for sensibilities worthy of the name civilized, even when the civilization they may pertain to isn't the ultimate one but - certainly so far as the greater part of the West is concerned - something closer to being penultimate. Sadists and masochists, we like to believe, are exceptions to the sexual rule, and probably their behaviour, in the main, is not as brutal or submissive as it could be or, indeed, once was for similarly-disposed people in the infancy, as it were, of man's sexual evolution.
Ah, there we have the crux of the matter! I have fathered a contention which suggests that, at one time, relations between the sexes were a lot rougher than at present, and so much so as to imply that sadomasochism, or its historical equivalent, was once the rule rather than the exception! Frankly, I believe such a contention to be reasonable, and am prepared to argue in its defence. For men were more disposed to inflicting pain on others, regardless of sex, in pagan and early-Christian times than they are these days, at least in the more civilized parts of the world, and we needn't doubt that, as a corollary of this, women were correspondingly more disposed to the endurance of pain during such times than (would be) their latter-day descendants. The closer human society stands to the diabolic roots of life in the stars, the more likely it is that pain will predominate, and not merely as something to be endured but ... actively engaged in as a test of one's strength or courage or capacity of endurance (stoicism). Before sex became a pleasure it was predominantly a pain, and we may conjecture that its practitioners acted more savagely and unsympathetically towards one another than most latter-day couples would be prepared to countenance!
But not everyone behaves gently in love-making. There are those who prefer to look upon sex from either a sadistic or a masochistic angle, depending, as a rule, on their gender. The infliction and endurance of pain is, for them, the governing principle of sexual behaviour, without which sex would become far less exciting. What can one say of such people - that they are barbarous or backward? An approach to sex that consciously endorses pain as the governing principle is arguably less than civilized, in the modern sense of that term. Certainly most men do not behave brutally towards their partners during sex but, for the most part, gently and sympathetically. Sex, like so much else, has become civilized in the course of time. Its sadomasochistic origins have been refined upon to the point where pain is eclipsed by pleasure, which has become the principal incentive for sexual intercourse. Admittedly, there are exceptions. But even those who consciously pursue sadomasochistic relationships do so on a comparatively restrained basis, never or rarely sinking to the level of savagery of our distant ancestors. Nevertheless, their activities and attitudes are such as to suggest that, where sex is concerned, they are simply laggards - neo-pagan types who display less subtlety and restraint than the majority of their contemporaries; pain-wallowing anachronisms whose approach to sex, in an age of sexual pleasure, is barbarous rather than civilized. Most people do not admire sadomasochism in others!
This essay isn't specifically intended to be about sexual behaviour but also about other things, including pain and pleasure generally. We may note that, as human evolution progresses, there develops a tendency among men to minimize pain and maximize pleasure - at any rate, to the extent that it can be maximized. For while pleasure is preferable to pain, it is by no means entirely separable from pain, but also pertains to the flesh as a positive response to positive stimuli; though, unlike pain, it is strictly limited as to its intensive potential. By which I mean that, whereas pain can descend to the absolute level of maximum suffering, pleasure is strictly finite, dependent on and limited by the physical constitution of the flesh which, being proton-dominated, leaves comparatively little scope for electron attraction in response to positive stimuli from without. Because protons predominate over electrons in the crude atomicity of the flesh, the strongest sensation we can feel will always be the negative one, as evoked by a negative external stimulus, like the application of force to the skin. Our capacity for pleasure can never become the ultimate goal of human striving but only, at best, a temporal, intermediate goal ... to be transcended for something higher when or as often as opportunity permits. We may endeavour to curtail pain or the causes of pain as much as possible, but we can't thereby expand pleasure indefinitely, until, for instance, it attained to an intensity the equal of anything humanity had ever experienced of pain in the past. There can never be a pleasurable sensation the equal, in intensity, of a hand or body consumed by fire! The atomic constitution of the flesh will always preclude such a possibility and thereby render the pursuit of increased pleasure futile. The wiser, more advanced members of the human race have long subordinated pleasure to the pursuit of higher ends, such as happiness and awareness, which stem from positive stimuli impinging upon areas of the body or brain with a greater ratio of electrons to protons and/or neutrons than the flesh. Unfortunately even in the heart, that seat of the emotions, the ratio of protons to electrons is too favourably disposed towards the former to enable the positive emotion of love to outweigh, in intensity, the negative emotion of hate, which has hitherto been the ruling emotion of the heart, with love, or the actual condition of 'being in love', a periodic exception to the general rule! This isn't to say, however, that hate has existed at the expense of love on a permanent basis; for, like the flesh, the heart requires a stimulus one way or another in order to respond in an emotional way. But, certainly, a heart which is not 'in love', as we say, will be more disposed, in its neutrality, to the negative emotion of hate than would otherwise be the case. Doubtless one of the great charms of 'being in love' for most people is that, whilst it lasts, the ruling emotion of hatred is quelled, if not ousted, and one becomes more disposed to look at life positively, in response to the rebellious 'electron uprising', as it were, of the heart against its customary proton master. We acquire, through love, a reprieve from hate or, alternatively, a neutrality favouring hate or some weaker negative emotion.
But even love is temporal and therefore inadequate as a goal of evolutionary striving or ideal to be pursued for its own sake. We can never entirely escape from hate. For, alas, the heart, too, is atomic and accordingly biased towards its proton master! Love may be a pleasant reprieve from negative emotions, but it doesn't last for ever - certainly no more than a few years. And as we get older our capacity for 'falling in love' is reduced, partly because we become more intellectualized and less disposed to appearances, partly because the heart contracts and beats less vigorously than before. Falling in love would for many adults constitute a kind of indignity in the face of their intellectual and/or spiritual preoccupations and pretensions. Not surprisingly, certain higher men, like surgeons, refuse to acknowledge that the heart could possibly be anything more than a pump. We may be sure that youths, particularly female, would be highly sceptical if not downright critical of such an attitude! A young woman in love would have little doubt that the heart was more than just a natural pump - namely the seat of the emotions!
Yet relatively few people have no other desire than to live for their emotions, particularly among the older generation. A person, who may have predominantly lived for pleasure at one stage of his life, may subsequently live for positive emotions. It is even possible that such a person may come, in the fullness of time, to live for his feelings, placing due importance on happiness, the most positive feeling. He may gravitate, as it were, from the heart to the head or, more specifically, to that part of the head in which the old brain is located and from the psychic aspect of which, in the subconscious, feelings of a more elevated and, on the whole, generalized nature may emerge, in response to a variety of external stimuli. Not that all such feelings are positive; for the subconscious is no less disposed to negative feelings in response to negative stimuli than the heart or the flesh. But these feelings won't be quite as strong as those connected with areas of the body in which protons greatly predominate over electrons. Sadness is a strong feeling, but it isn't as strong, or bad, as the emotion of hate, and nowhere near as difficult to endure as the sensation of physical pain in response to some brutal external stimulus aimed at the flesh. Most people would rather be sad than burning to death, and we may surmise that a majority of people would likewise prefer transient sadness to lasting hatred.
The negative feelings of the subconscious are therefore less disagreeable, as a rule, than the negative emotions and sensations of the lower regions of soul, as evoked by and dependent on the body. One suffers less from the old brain than from the heart or the flesh. But, conversely, the positive feelings associated with the psychic aspect of the old brain are likely to be more rewarding than those associated with the parallel aspect of more deeply proton-dominated organs. We cannot blame a man for preferring happiness to either love or pleasure, because such a feeling is more refined, in that it connotes with a greater degree of electron freedom than would be possible in lower regions of the body, and has, in consequence, a more diffuse, impersonal, universal quality. Both love and pleasure are dependent on other people, but happiness can transcend others in response to quite disparate external stimuli. Intellectual activity can bring a person happiness for the duration of his work, or whatever. Like pleasure, happiness can be switched on and off, can come and go with changing circumstances. One can be happy for apparently no reason at all; though, in point of fact, there will usually be some reason, if one bothers to analyse the situation carefully enough.
Although superior to love and pleasure, happiness cannot, however, be turned into the goal of evolutionary striving. For there is no absolute happiness! It cannot be cultivated to the exclusion of other feelings, least of all sadness, which is always lurking in the background, ready to pounce, in response to appropriately negative stimuli, and devour one's peace of mind. The man who strives to cultivate happiness is certainly on a superior level than the lover or the hedonist, but he is still some way short of salvation, and can no more expect to escape from sadness on a permanent basis than the lover ... from intermittent hatred or the hedonist ... from intermittent pain. If pain is the lowest and most intense feeling the soul can experience, then happiness is its highest and most refined. Yet such an antithesis cannot transcend the soul, for it exists within the soul's confinement and will relate to the temporal world, of which the soul is but a psychic manifestation. One cannot be happy all the time, since each part of the soul demands some expression, and not only on a positive basis! The old brain, even with a greater overall electron content than the heart or the flesh, is still a part of the body and one, moreover, in which protons predominate over electrons, so that sadness, when it arises, will remain the stronger feeling, irrespective of whether it is less strong, or disagreeable, than the negative feelings of the heart (hate) and the flesh (pain) respectively. Precisely because the material constitution of the body is largely composed of protons and electrons, as in any natural matter, it is impossible to cultivate one feeling at the lasting expense of another. Positive stimuli impinging upon the flesh or senses will evoke positive feelings, but negative stimuli will evoke the converse of these and, given the proton-dominated constitution of flesh, heart, and old brain (roughly corresponding to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost), these negative feelings will be stronger, as a rule, than their positive counterparts. We can minimize, by degrees, the negative stimuli impinging upon the body, but we can't entirely escape from such stimuli or transcend negative feelings altogether. Even the man who consciously cultivates awareness for long periods at a time cannot avoid sleeping or eating or hearing or seeing or walking.
But if happiness is temporal and therefore inadequate as the goal of evolutionary striving, then the cultivation of awareness in the superconscious, or psychic aspect of the new brain, is quite a different proposition! The man who lives predominantly for and in his spirit doesn't care too much for happiness or love or pleasure or any other positive feeling associated with the soul, because his attention will be focused on the eternal, on what is potentially absolute and therefore cultivatable as an end-in-itself. With the spirit there is no converse side, no negative feelings, because, pertaining to the realm of awareness, it is above feelings. Admittedly, the new brain, like the old one, is atomic in constitution and consequently composed of protons and electrons. But electrons predominate over protons here and thus set the new brain apart from the old one as a brain predominantly given to awareness; though there will, of course, be overlappings with feelings in view of the (partly) proton content of brain matter, so that some soul may cling to the new brain and behave in an appropriately sensual way, extending the governing principle of the old brain into the new one on a largely tangential basis. Nevertheless, awareness remains the leading characteristic of new-brain activity, and it will preponderate to a greater or lesser extent depending on the psychic development of the individual, that is to say, on the degree to which the superconscious preponderates over the subconscious - if at all. Intelligence, which is broadly synonymous with awareness, varies considerably from person to person, though all people live in their superconscious at least some of the time, either directly, through meditation, or indirectly, as when the will is applied to the subconscious and thought is evoked in response to a variety of external stimuli. All of us 'feed our minds', even if only to the extent of reading a newspaper or watching some television serial. To 'feed one's mind' is not only to ingest, through one or other of the senses, information which is then digested and either made immediate use of or consigned to memory for possible future use; it is primarily a process whereby awareness is sharpened, whereby we, as spirit, grow increasingly conscious about various aspects of whatever we are ingesting, from a symphony to a television programme, from a novel to a painting, and become, during this process of enriched assimilation, more alive to ourselves than at other times!
Being dependent on external stimuli for the cultivation of greater awareness does, however, have its drawbacks, not least of all because awareness is an internal quality and can only be cultivated to a relatively limited extent through the use or assistance of external stimuli, no matter how intellectually stimulating such stimuli may happen to be! If we wish to cultivate awareness to a higher extent - which we won't do, as a rule, before it has been cultivated to a quite high pitch through external means - then we can do no better than to turn away from appearances and focus our attention upon the self, awareness thereby becoming aware of itself in a kind of spiritual narcissism, which is the opposite of any sensual narcissism. We turn inwards to develop our awareness of self to the highest degree humanly possible, and become, in the process, quasi-divine, living only for and in the spirit, above and beyond the ambiguous realms of feelings and thoughts and dreams. This is the meditative state and, although it isn't unknown to people in the West, relatively few are those who regularly experience it for any length of time in this day and age!
Unlike pleasure, love, and happiness, maximum awareness can become the goal of human striving, indeed the goal of evolution itself, though we can none of us expect to attain to that goal before certain intermediate stages, transcending the human, have been introduced - a thing, alas, which won't happen for some time to come! The 'being-for-self' awareness of the meditator is certainly a viable state, and one which more people are bound to experience as time goes by. But it isn't the ultimate state, nor can we expect it to take us directly to that state in spiritual transcendence. The best we can do, while still human beings, is to live for awareness, particularly the direct, essential awareness of meditation. We cannot experience the post-human tripping state of Supermen, at any rate not on an official and universal basis, nor can we experience the subsequent hypermeditative state of Superbeings, the state immediately preceding transcendence. But we can cultivate awareness to a greater extent than hitherto, and thus modify both the psychological and physiological constitutions of our brains. For, unlike bodily matter, brain matter, particularly when of the new brain, can be significantly modified in the course of time ... as intellectual activity rearranges and refines upon its basic atomic constitution, transforming the predominant electron content of the new brain from a marginally to a substantially predominating content in the course of our psychic evolution. Unlike the body, which grows naturally and independently of conscious volition, the superconscious mind requires to be artificially cultivated as a result of conscious effort on our part. We cannot change our bodies, at least not beyond making them physically stronger or weaker, but we can certainly change our minds, and thus alter the physiological constitution of the new brain in the process! This is, after all, merely the beginnings of a tendency which, at the climax of millennial evolution, will result in mind becoming completely independent of new-brain matter, as electrons break away from proton and/or neutron constraint and soar heavenwards towards their spiritual destination in the supra-atomic Beyond.
All this takes us a long way from sadomasochism, which is where I began this essay, but not for nothing and not without a certain arcane logic! For the sadist and the meditator exist at opposite poles of human behaviour - the one stemming from the Diabolic Alpha in an attitude to sex which emphasizes its reactive proton origins; the other aspiring towards the Divine Omega in a context which stresses electron attractions as applying both to his own and to other people's higher self. In this day and age, each extreme is rather the exception to the rule. But whereas the sadomasochistic exception is largely a consequence of man having, in the main, outgrown such diabolical behaviour, the meditative exception reflects the converse consequence ... of man not yet having become spiritual enough to directly aspire towards the Divine Omega on both a regular and a widespread basis. We needn't lament the sadomasochistic exception, but we should, if spiritually progressive, look towards a future in which meditation will become the rule!